What is so rare as a sax team in harmony? The use of four reed experts as the centerpiece (at times the entirety) of a jazz group can produce inspired and refreshing results. This was handily demonstrated by Ira Schulman when he brought his Four Winds group to Linda's on Melrose Avenue on Saturday.
Leading on soprano saxophone, Schulman heads a foursome that includes Ann Patterson on alto, Buck Gardner on tenor and Charles Owens on baritone. Backed on most numbers by Larry Gales on bass and Mel Lee on drums, they blend with an elegance that is due in large measure to their team spirit, but also to an unconventional library of arrangements.
Some of the tunes are standards, such as "Broadway" and "It Don't Mean a Thing," deftly rearranged by Allen Heinz. Others are older pieces once used by a 1950s unit known as the Hollywood Saxophone Quartet. Unison, harmony and counterpoint are subtly interwoven, and at times the solo work--notably by Patterson and Owens--measures up to the level of the ensemble.
Occasionally the band undergoes a change of habit, shedding its saxes for flute (Schulman), oboe (Patterson), clarinet (Owens) and bassoon (Gardner). Playing a delightful short sweet by Spud Murphy entitled "Sunset Limited" and an original by Heinz, "Blues for Ann," they discarded the bass and drums. As these experiments revealed, they are probably at their best without a rhythm section, perhaps because they can hear one another better and achieve more accurate intonation.
This splendid outfit, heard mainly at clinics in Southland schools, deserves more regular jazz club exposure. Schulman & Co. will return to Linda's Jan. 13 and every fourth Saturday thereafter.